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Lawmaker Disciplined For “Vagina” Comment Cited Judaism

Did we mention Eve Ensler has a Jewish dad?

Irin Carmon
June 15, 2012

“And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

Those were the words, spoken in opposition to an omnibus abortion bill, that got Rep. Lisa Brown barred from speaking on the House floor the following day – setting off viral outrage. (The bill passed.) Another female lawmaker was similarly disciplined over a protest amendment to regulate vasectomies.

What got (understandably) less attention was how much she focused on Jewish law in her remarks, which referenced an earlier speaker who referenced religious freedom. Brown said she keeps kosher in her own home, and went on,

“Judaism believes that therapeutic abortions, namely abortion performed in order to preserve the life of the mother, are not only permissible, but mandatory. The stage of pregnancy does not matter. Wherever there’s a question of the life of the mother or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother. The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of a mother. I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?”

In a press conference yesterday, Brown added, “I was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that HB 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and my religion…Or is it because I used the word ‘vagina,’ which is an anatomically, medically correct term?” Republican majority leader Jim Stamas said she had violated the “decorum of the House” by being a little too specific about whose rights were going to be violated.

Irin Carmon is a senior correspondent at New York magazine and co-author of The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her Twitter feed is @irin.